What better place to spend time outdoors than beautiful Colorado Springs? Our city cozies up to one of America’s most beautiful mountains, Pikes Peak. Glancing at the peak rising up from the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains against a bright blue sky and Toy Story like clouds never gets old. Hundreds of hiking and biking trails, camping sites, and opportunities to run wild make our city the perfect place to spend 1,000 hours outside.
Have you heard of this challenge?
I discovered it a couple of years ago and we began the challenge for ourselves last year. (Find out more here, if you’re interested in joining the challenge).
Why We Tried It
It has been a couple of years since I shared with you about my journey with postpartum depression.
My battle with depression is what motivated me to take on this challenge. Even during the worst of that season, when I would step outside, I felt like I was briefly stepping out of the dark fog that clouded my mind and heart. Spending time outside every day played a large part in healing my mind and body. Maybe it was the sunshine and vitamin D, the fresh air, the exercise, my kids’ laughter, and their sweet wildness.
I can honestly say, it was one of the best things we’ve ever done as a family.
With Colorado’s average of 240 days of sunshine a year, beautiful mountains, and endless trails, Colorado is the perfect place to spend 1,000 hours outside.
There is no better place to run wild and free than in our own backyard! Plus there are endless benefits to spending time outdoors for kids and adults!
Here are 5 benefits of spending time outside:
1. Better sleep and improved mood
Have you heard of getting sunlight before noon? Exposure to early morning sunlight can help you stay healthy by helping you get quality sleep. Morning rays on our body and face will increase the serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin proceeds melatonin which is the hormone that helps us sleep and regulates wake cycles.
Early morning sunlight also enhances your mood!
Sunshine helps your body create vitamin D. Just 10-15 minutes of unblocked sunshine can help your body make the vitamin D it needs to thrive. By unblocked, I mean bare face, arms, and legs with no sunscreen on. Vitamin D is so important! It helps prevent bone fractures, protects against heart disease, improves lung function, and your mood.
2. Natural exercise = power
When you spend time outdoors you will most likely find yourself in motion. Whether you are hiking, walking, biking, climbing, running, or frolicking in the woods you are getting exercise. Sometimes the best kind of exercise is natural movement. You don’t always need to be pumping iron to get a good workout. The combination of fresh air, nature, and movement is powerful. It lifts your mood, improves concentration, and helps you relax.
You are also involving all of your senses when you are outdoors which is great for your brain because your brain will fire in response to the different stimuli it’s receiving. This helps your brain and body stay healthy!
3. Boosted immune system
Boosting our immune system more important than ever. Many studies have shown that fresh air has antibacterial properties. The combination of fresh air and sunshine kills bacteria, leaving the air more sanitary. Spending time outdoors can also increase your white blood cell count which boosts your immune system immensely!
Jacob Lieberman Ph.D. said, “The body is a biological light receptor. Routine exposure to sunlight reduces resting heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar, while increasing energy, strength, endurance, stress tolerance, and the ability of the blood to absorb and carry oxygen.”
If that doesn’t convince you to spend more time outdoors than I don’t know what will.
Just kidding – there’s more!
4. Playing is medicine to the soul
Adults need to play more. Imagine a world where we had the wonder and delight of a child and everything we did was an opportunity to play. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
Playing outdoors, especially with our kids, reminds us of our inner child. While playing in nature, our kids have the opportunity to go wild, be themselves, and learn with abandonment.
Nicolette Sowder wrote, “To raise a nature-bonded child is to raise a rebel, a dreamer, an innovator… someone who will walk their own verdant, winding path.”
I love that!
Playing in nature also teaches our kids crucial physical skills such as running, balancing, jumping, and climbing. They learn to take risks, overcome fears, make friends, use their imaginations, and regulate their emotions.
Carla Hannaford Ph.D. wrote, “The richer our sensory environment and the greater our freedom to explore it, the more intricate will be the patterns for learning, thought and creativity.”
For kids, play is learning which technically means play is academics, right? Unrestricted outdoor play is powerful, life-changing, and crucial.
5. Increased resilience.
We are lucky to live in a city where we have incredibly nice weather almost all year round. We have all four seasons which tend to be pretty mild, so we have no excuse not to spend time outdoors!
Yes, even when it’s cold and snowy outside.
It’s as Alfred Wainwright said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
Finding beauty in the clouds and the crisp air, not just in the warmth and the sunshine, builds resilience in our kids. It teaches our kids that it is okay to be uncomfortable. They learn both physical and emotional flexibility. You cannot always control your environment, especially outdoors, unexpected situations can occur and learning to modify plans, behavior, and emotions to adjust to change strengthens their resilience.
I could probably write forever on the benefits of spending time outdoors but instead, I will share with you some of our favorite outdoor places in and around Colorado Springs so you can start exploring too.
Our favorite family-friendly hikes in the Colorado Springs area:
- The Pineries Open Space
- Cathedral Pines Trailhead
- Garden of the gods
- Black Forest Section 16
- High Chaparral Open Space Parking Lot & Trailhead
- Pulpit Rock Park Trail
- Red Rock Canyon Open Space
- Quail Lake
- Cheyenne Mountain State Park
- Ute Valley Park
- Santa Fe Trail
The best playgrounds near hiking trails in and near the Springs:
- Black Forest Park
- Bear Creek Regional Park
- Palmer Park
- Fox Run Regional Park
- Quail Lake Park
Our favorite playgrounds with bathrooms (Very important!):
- America the Beautiful
- John Venezia Community Park
- Cottonwood Creek Park
- Vista Park
- Snowy River Park
- Outdoor activities we love:
- Rock Ledge Ranch
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
- Forest Bend Farm
- Long Neck Pumpkin Farm
- Favorite outdoor activities you can enjoy at home:
- Walks around the neighborhood
- Scavenger Hunts outside
- Art (painting, coloring, sidewalk chalk)
- Book picnics
- Bike rides
We have learned a lot on our journey to 1,000 hours outside! Here are some quick tips that we found very helpful:
1. Pack all the snacks! (And water).
Prep and pack nutritious foods that will fill you and your kids’ bellies to help sustain your energy. This means snacks that are full of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. If you think you’ve packed enough, go back and grab a couple more items! We did the Whole30 as a family recently and we have maintained a lot of the healthy habits we established during that time. Healthy Whole30 snacks were one of those habits. For more information on the Whole30 check out this post.
Here are some of our favorite snacks!
- Chomp Meat Sticks
- RX Bars
- Stretch Island Original Fruit Leather
- Bare veggie and fruit chips
- Plantain Chips
- Fresh fruit
- Cut up veggies in a bag
2. Dress for success.
Make sure to layer up and wear quality winter gear when it’s cold outside and pack oodles of sunscreen and hats when it’s warm outside. Wear the appropriate clothing and always bring back up. You never know when you might come upon a creek you need to wade in or a huge puddle you just have to jump in.
Prepare for adventure and keep your gear handy! Find a clothing rack, a basket, or a shelf to keep all your outdoor gear in so you can grab it as you run out the door.
3. Track your hours
The 1,000 Hours Outside blog has beautiful and creative ways to track your hours outside. Click here to choose a tracker!
4. Bonus Tip
Something else we loved was the Peaceful Press family vision worksheet.
This is a great guide to help you create and stick to your family’s vision and goals. We filled out the worksheet and placed it in a spot where we could see it every day. 1,000 Hours Outside was at the top of our list as it checked off a lot of boxes for us like health, learning, and quality time – some of our family values.
Friends, it’s a new year. It’s time to do something that’s not only life-changing but also so simple.
Take on the 1,000 Hours Outside challenge and spend 2022 in the great outdoors. I promise it will do wonders for your body, mind, and soul.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
This year, I hope you live deliberately – soak in the sunshine and embrace the storms. Run wild with your kids and hug them tight. Learn new and exciting things as you find adventure.
Cheers to 2022!